Successes reported in drive to tackle high toll of burglaries

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A NEW £1.3m taskforce to reduce burglaries in Leeds is beginning to show results after prolific burglars were targeted and the stolen goods market disrupted, councillors will be told.

Leeds was criticised by the Audit Commission for its high burglary levels in 2009-10 and, despite improvements at an inspection in 2010-11, a number of concerns and recommendations were made.

Last year members of Leeds City Council’s executive backed plans to use more than £1.3m from the Community Safety Fund to tackle the issue.

The city has been named as one of the country’s hotspots for the crime and a report prepared for next week’s executive says: “Leeds has had a longstanding burglary problem.”

Last June a report to members said despite improvements the city had the third highest burglary rate of any Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in England and Wales.

However, work by the taskforce is beginning to get results - but there is still a long way to go.

The report also warns that policing budgets, faced with Government spending cuts, will come under increasing pressure in the next few years.

The report says: “Leeds recorded its highest ever burglary figure of 16,937 in 2002/3.

“Significant reductions were subsequently achieved to the low of 7,670 burglaries in 2005/6.

“This period of reduction then reversed over the following four years until 2010/11 when Leeds again saw an approximate seven per cent reduction on the previous year, recording 8,869 crimes.”

Sustaining improvements to domestic burglary, has proved difficult and it was hoped that setting up the taskforce, which sees a number of agencies including police and council members working together, would begin to get results.

On Wednesday councillors will be told that since September last year, when the programme began, improvements have been noticeable.

The report says: “There were 6,045 recorded burglary dwelling offences across the city between April and December 2011, down 6 per cent (390 fewer offences) on the same period last year.

“Results for Q3 are even more significant, showing a 29.3 per cent improvement (741 fewer victims) when compared to the same period last year and December 2011 saw the lowest recorded burglary count in the last ten years.”

To achieve the results a number of steps have been taken, including targeting prolific offenders, disrupting the stolen good market and providing crime prevention advice to vulnerable groups such as students.

One gang, linked to organised crime, was targeted in North West Leeds. Of the five members, one offender was recalled to prison to serve a further year, one was recalled to prison and then electronically tagged on licence prior to being convicted for handling stolen goods and a third has now been convicted.

Efforts have also been made to target those handling stolen goods. In December, twelve people were arrested and stolen goods worth more than £35,000 recovered.

It is widely recognised that Leeds has a number of specific issues which contribute to the high number of burglaries which take place, all of which have been considered as part of the reduction strategy. These include:

*High numbers of privately rented Houses in Multiple Occupation, often with poor security measures;

*One of the largest student populations in the UK, many living in private rented accommodation;

*More affluent areas that are closely located to deprived areas, providing easy access for potential offenders;

*A high number of young people entering the criminal justice system with burglary as their first offence, which is not typical of other large cities across the country.